Bound in love

By The Rev. Curtis Farr

Pentecost 19C: Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

Love this psalm.

2046135197_73fe126445It’s the Qui Habitat we sometimes read during Compline. And I like the Anglicized version found in the Book of Common Prayer more than the lectionary version, despite all the male-centric and individualized language. After cracking this open to be applicable to all people, not just an ancient Palestinian regional king, we can read it as a prayer.

In verses 14-16, God speaks in first person. When I first read this psalm and realized that was happening, it felt strange. It was odd to speak as God talking about me (the “he” being any given person). It was odder to conceptualize being bound in love.

“Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my Name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I am with him in trouble; I will rescue him and bring him to honor. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” Continue reading

Money Money

By The Rev. Curtis Farr

Pentecost 18C: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1, Psalm 79:1-9, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Luke 16:1-13

Jesus gives us another confusing contradiction in this week’s excerpt from Luke. In the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, Jesus tells the story of a manager who was embezzling money from his boss’s property. The boss finds out, calls on him, sits him down, and tells him that soon he’ll be fired. The manager figures out that if he forgives a portion of the debts of a few of the boss’s debtors, they will “welcome [him] into their homes.” He does so, and when his boss finds out, he commends him for his judgment.

How is it that Jesus can talk to his disciples about giving up all possessions in order to be true disciples one minute and the next be showing an embezzler in a positive light because of his cleverness?

Reeling in Jesus’ later statement that “You cannot serve God and wealth,” we can possibly assume that Jesus isn’t impressed with the greed part of this whole situation.

There is a feeling that no matter what this manager does with his wealth, he is doing it for his own security; either he’s buying security with money, or writing off the debts of others to gain his security through their hospitality later.

Maybe the mystery of this passage lies in the question of how we use money. There is no singular biblical view on money, and perhaps that is drawing us deeper into questioning our own approach to finances. The question is not only do we give but what do we give; how do we give it and to whom? Is there a positive potential in money, and are we unlocking that potential in the way we earn, spend, and save?

The Rev. Curtis Farr is the assistant rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church. He blogs for St. James’s every Wednesday, offering reflections on the readings of scripture from the upcoming Sunday.

Into the Fire is a weekly contribution to the creative and imaginative process of interpreting the black and white fire of Scripture. Using an adapted process of Midrash, the author includes historical/cultural information, personal anecdotes, and other theologians’ ruminations on selected passages from the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings. All are welcome to journey into the fire by using the comment sections on the blog itself, or on Facebook or Tumblr.

“Doom and Gloom”

By The Rev. Curtis Farr

Pentecost 17C: Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

Jeremiah 4:11-12: “At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse—a wind too strong for that.”

Bathroom humor transcends all peoples; I have to imagine that at least a few young men and women chuckled at this one about a “hot wind” coming from the Lord.

Just me? Okay.

That being said, our prophet writes that he looked on the earth/heavens/mountains/hills/people/animals/land/cities/etc. and saw that they were waste/void/lightless/quaking/moving/gone/desert/ruined/etc. All of these destroyed things lay before the Lord and the Lord’s fierce anger; and when the whole land is desolate, the Lord will not end it completely but will just let it be.

Well that’s just great. It seems as if the Lord is either doing these things, is going to do these things, or is going to let these things happen, and will not end all the pain and suffering, despite the imminent desolation. Sounds rather bleak to me—certainly not something that a God who “is love” would do.

What do we make of all of the chaos without throwing out the Hebrew Scriptures or putting a “Jesus Loves Me” bandage on our biblically induced wounds? Continue reading

Introducing Guest Blogger Curtis Farr & an expanded Midrash

For some time now, I have been giving thought to how to raise the level of interaction and discussion on the Paradoxical Thoughts blog. Those of you who know me well know of my fondness for the ancient Jewish approach to Biblical study known as Midrash and those of you who don’t may have at least read my three-part series on Midrash on this very blog. I have increasingly found myself drawn to the possibility of transforming the Paradoxical Thoughts blog into a living, breathing, ongoing Midrash by inviting several other authors and bloggers to join me in offering regular posts of a Midrashic bent and engaging each other in a playful give and take.

Curtis Farr

Well…as Jesus was fond of saying, “Knock, and the door will be opened.” Right about then, I noticed that a former seminarian and mentee, the Rev. Curtis Farr, was beginning a weekly column at his new congregation in West Hartford Center, Connecticut, where he is the assistant rector. Entitled Into the Fire, his column for St. James Episcopal Church is a weekly contribution to the creative and imaginative process of interpreting the black and white fire of Scripture. Using an adapted process of Midrash, Curtis includes historical/cultural information, personal anecdotes, and other theologians’ ruminations on selected passages from the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings.

And now we are happy to welcome Curtis Farr as a regular guest blogger on Paradoxical Thoughts. All are welcome to journey into the fire by using the comment sections on the blog itself or on Facebook or Tumblr.

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Non-Proselytizing Evangelism: Returning to the Roots of Anglican-Episcopal Tradition and the Incarnational Heart of Christianity (PDF)

Rumor-EvangelizeWhen I broach the subject of evangelism to members of my own Anglican-Episcopal tradition, I get two distinct kinds of responses, depending on whether the hearers are conservative or liberal in their theology. Conservatives Anglicans, while a distinct minority in the denomination, are pretty gung-ho on the evangelism thing. They make jokes like, “to most Episcopalians evangelism is a “four-letter word,” and try to encourage the rest of us to get out there and start making converts for Christ.  Liberal (and even moderate) Anglicans, on the other hand, tend to be rather uncomfortable with the whole idea of evangelism. Oddly enough, they tell the same evangelism jokes as conservative but they sound a bit more nervous when they do, because to them it really does feel like a four-letter word.

Several years ago, when I began to suggest the possibility of a non-proselytizing evangelism, my clergy colleagues looked at me I had just started to speak in tongues. My liberal friends were like, “Is it even possible to engage in evangelism without proselytizing? And do we even want to do it if it isn’t?” Meanwhile, my conservative friends were like, “Why would anyone even want to do that? Isn’t proselytizing the point?” And both of them were like, “Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”

Indeed, the two terms do sound a little discordant when we first try to say them together. I’m guessing that’s because evangelism equals proselytizing is pretty much the only kind of evangelism paradigm that the Church and most of its members has in its institutional memory. Most of us have no other concept of evangelism other than as a way to convert people: to get them to change their religious affiliation another faith tradition to Christianity or even (sadly) from one Christian denomination to another. But I prefer to think of it as more of a paradox than an oxymoron. Because it wasn’t always this way…
Continue reading →

Related Links:

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Start with WHY: How great leaders inspire action – by Simon Sinek

In one sense, this popular TED talk by Simon Sinek is about how leaders can learn to motivate change in people and organizations, and from that perspective alone it is worth watching by church leaders.

why-how-whatBut his “Starting with WHY” approach — digging down beneath the “What” of the things we DO, uncovering and the continuing to dig beneath the “How” of the gifts and skill sets we BRING, through to the “Why” of the VISION God has planted in our hearts as our reason for existance — can also teach us a lot about how to bring about INNOVATION in a incarnational, emergent, and authentic way.

And for those of you too fidgety to watch the whole 18 min. talk, here’s a 2 min excerpt.

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On Tipping Points, Innovation, Acceptance of Change, Chasm Crossing, and the Effects of Expectations

tippingpointIf change is so “catchy,” why is it so hard for some organizations (like churches) to catch on to innovations?

The attached Power Point presentation explores a ideas from a variety of thought-leaders, from Gladwell (“Tipping Point”) to Rogers (“Diffusion of Innovations”) to More (“Crossing the Chasm”), and more, to answer this question and suggest what to do about it.